After weeks of rumors, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday that the Trump administration is re-designating Cuba as a “state sponsor of terror.” The move could hamper efforts by the incoming Biden administration to attempt to normalize relations with Havana.
Cuba was first designated as a state sponsor of terror by the Reagan administration in 1982. This move was reversed in 2015 by President Obama, who took other steps to normalize with Havana, including lifting travel restrictions and sanctions on Cuban goods.
Since Obama never fully lifted the decades-old trade embargo on Cuba, the Trump administration was able to reverse his steps towards normalization. Since coming into office, President Trump has gradually re-imposed Cuba-related sanctions and travel restrictions.
To reverse Pompeo’s action, the Biden administration will have to certify the delisting with Congress, a process that could take months. Currently, the only other countries listed as state sponsors of terror are Iran, North Korea, and Syria.
One of the reasons Pompeo cites for the designation is Cuba’s support for Venezuelan President Nicola Maduro. The US claims Cuba’s military is keeping Maduro in power, but that is not the case. The reality of the situation is that Juan Guaido, who the US recognized as president of Venezuela, never had much support in the country. Guaido’s attempted coups failed miserably, and the military has stayed loyal to Maduro.
Pompeo’s announcement marked the second terror designation he announced this week. On Sunday night, he released a statement that said the administration will designate Yemen’s Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization. The designation that will have grave consequences for the civilians in Yemen who are suffering from severe food shortages due to the US-backed Saudi-led war on Yemen.
With the Trump administration in its final days, Pompeo seems determined to enact as many hardline policies as he can to tie the hands of the incoming administration.